Meditation Space UNESCO, Paris
Everyone has his/her own notion of spirituality and tries to touch it in his/her unique way.
The reason we love Tadao Ando is that he does it through architecture. Meditation Space UNESCO, Paris is a perfect example.
Concept and Architecture
UNESCO celebrated its 5oth anniversary in 1995. To commemorate that event, it was decided to construct a place of prayer for world peace that transcends religious and ethnic distinctions. The site is at UNESCO headquarters, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The headquarters is a well-known work of modern architecture designed by Marcel Breuer; there are works of by Picasso, Giacometti and other artists inside and outside the building.
Among these works is a Japanese garden designed by Isamu Noguchi. Noguchi was a sculptor who was, by birth and in spirit, both American and Japanese.
The garden, however, was in bad repair. A site next to the garden was chosen for the place of prayer. It was a difficult site, where creating a meditation space was not easy – Tadao Ando and associates had to create an autonomous prayer space expressing a strong idea on a site surrounded by a Breuer building and next to a Japanese garden by Noguchi.
The “Meditation Garden” as a whole is composed of simple elements: two walls to separate the site from the surrounding environment; a terraced pool extending over the entire site; a cylindrical prayer space floating on the pool; and a ramp providing access to the space.
The prayer space is a cylinder 21 feet in diameter and 21 feet in height. The only openings in the cylinder are the two entrances and the skylight. There are no doors, windows or finishes; the space consists only of light and exposed concrete. The bottom of the pool is laid with stones exposed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that were donated by that city.
Water flows over the stones and symbolically purifies the souls of those who have died in war; the design is a direct expression of a pure desire for peace, this quality makes the Meditation space UNESCO a symbol of international peace and integrity.
Donations of 10,000 yen (about US$ 88,50) per person were solicited from private individuals in Japan, the only country ever to suffer the effects of atomic bombs, and 140 million yen (about US$ 1,2 million) in all was collected.
The names of the donors are recorded on one side of the space; a portion of the funds was set aside for repairing and annually maintaining the garden by Noguchi.